By Paul Magno | August 14, 2020

Call me crazy, but I say that the 23-year-old David Benavidez, who defends his WBC title this Saturday against heavy-handed Alexis Angulo, would handle everyone and anyone in the deep, intriguing super middleweight division. And, yeah, that's including superstar Saul "Canelo" Alvarez.

168 is, indeed, great, though.

There's Canelo, of course, who owns a paper title there and may or may not still be competing at that weight. Behind Canelo, there's a wide variety of quality talents and differing styles making up the upper echelon of the division.

WBA champ Callum Smith is a skilled, tough competitor. IBF titlist Caleb Plant is a beautifully crafty James Toney-ish boxer. WBO belt holder Billy Joe Saunders is talented, skilled, and a top fighter when able to maintain his focus. Among the non-champs, there's a more than solid cast of Daniel Jacobs, Anthony Dirrell, David Lemieux, John Ryder, Fedor Chudinov, Caleb Truax, Lionell Thompson, and Juergen Braehmer (among others). 

IMO, Benavidez whups them all.

Just one look at his genius-level offensive IQ should make any knowledgeable boxing person a true believer. Tall and lanky, he throws punches in bunches, varying placement and velocity, to create an offensive surge that, as I wrote elsewhere, is "equal parts hard to defend and difficult to resist." 

He moves well, defends well, and carries with him the poise and maturity of an elite-level, well-seasoned pro. Hell, he carries himself with MORE in-ring maturity and poise than many elite-level, well-seasoned pros.

His high ring IQ is definitely a product of his upbringing. 

Benavidez was a boxing child prodigy, born into a boxing family. He started training at 3. Made his pro debut in Mexico at 16 (because he was too young to fight in the US). He won his first world title at 20, something that made him the youngest fighter to become world champ at 168. And, most recently, he disassembled and stopped tough veteran and two-time world champ Anthony Dirrell in nine rounds to recapture the WBC title stripped from him for a drug violation.

He also doesn't lack in confidence and competitive spirit.

"I feel like I’m the best in the division and you have to have that mentality that I can’t go up against anybody being scared and thinking I’m not better than them," Benavidez told Bob Velin of Premier Boxing Champions. "I’m stronger than ever right now, I’m 23, I haven’t even reached my prime, my man strength yet, but I feel very strong. I just want to show everybody I want to be the best. 

"Look, it’s time to unify the titles. There can’t be four champions, there has to be one true champion. I feel I’m the best right now and I just want to prove it."

Right now, it would seem that the only one who can stop David Benavidez is David Benavidez.

The young fighter tested positive for cocaine in 2018 and that personal fail cost him his WBC super middleweight title, as well as months of his career due to the accompanying suspension. 

Benavidez claims that the dirty test was a wake-up call of sorts and that it prompted him to make some very important changes in his personal life. 

Of course, he would be saying the same thing whether it was actually true or not. Time will tell whether the suspension pushed him back on the right track or whether it simply inspired him to hide his partying better. This certainly wouldn't be the first time a talented prodigy excelled in his chosen profession, but failed in the real world beyond it. 

But real fight fans should be rooting for Benavidez staying on the straight and narrow because this kid is the real deal. He's everything we always clamor for-- a skilled warrior, carrying a real chip on his shoulder, who is utterly fearless and consumed by ambition. 

[UPDATE: Benavidez failed to make weight for his title defense Saturday and, apparently, was grossly over the 168 lb. limit. As a result, he loses the WBC belt again-- this time on the scales. He also lends credence to the criticism above that he may be his own most challenging foe.]

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